Madison Monday: The Birdhouse Concert Series

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On any given weekend, Madison has a hopping music scene.  Just on St. Patrick’s Day weekend, there was Irish music to be heard at Thomas Family Winery, or That Book Place, or The Electric Lady, just to name a few.  This weekend, Tom Roznowski could be heard at the Thomas Family Winery, and next weekend is the RiverRoots festival Pub Crawl kickoff event featuring Jimmy Davis and Lewis Mathis.

On the Sunday night of St. Patrick’s day weekend, my stepdaughter and I attended my second Birdhouse Concert Series, this time featuring Chicago musician Edie Carey.

I guess the whole house concert thing is old news to those who are hip and in the know, but I am neither hip nor particularly in the know.  For example, I just signed up for Pinterest, but I’m still not exactly sure what I’m supposed to do now.  My first house concert was last fall as part of a dinner to raise money for Girls, Inc. here in Jefferson County.  There was delicious Mexican food and then we all settled down in our hosts’ living room to hear Greg Ziesemer and Kriss Luckett-Ziesemer sing for us.

Cover of Edie Carey’s latest album

Not too long ago I read a fantasy (or speculative fiction, I guess) novel in which there’s a certain tribe of people for whom singing in front of people is kind of like…having sex with someone you don’t know?  Or maybe it’s like watching this youtube video my students showed me just today of a couple having their first ever kiss on their wedding day.  Oh, ugh, this is by far the most embarrassing thing you will ever see.

In this novel, singing is something you do with people you are very intimate with—lovers and family members–but something you never do for strangers.  Someone who performs in public is for them kind of like equivalent to a prostitute.

Let me just say right now that in no way am I arguing that musicians are prostitutes.  Just to be safe, let me that say again that in no way are musicians prostitutes.  But when you go to a house concert, you kind of get the point about how intimate singing in front of someone is, without the crowd of thousands, or hundreds or even like much more than twenty people between you and the folks who are performing.  This is probably especially true when, as the last two performances have been at the Birdhouse, the performers are singer/songwriters.

Singer/songwriters like Danny Flanigan (who performed in February) and Edie Carey are pouring their whole lives out to you when they sing.  And then, also, they’re singing!  Loudly!  With their eyes open most of the time, making actual eye contact with audience members who are sometimes sitting less than two feet away from them!  Can you imagine?

Now I, myself, am not without some experience singing in front of an audience.  The last time it happened I believe I was probably about eleven years old in front of members of my church singing a solo called, “In His Time.”  I can actually probably still sing some of it if you’d ever like to hear.  I could record it for you and send it you as an e-mail attachment, because the idea of singing in front of people, let alone a small group of people in a small room is, well, horrifying.

Watching someone else do this is entrancing and quite beautiful.  You could argue that perhaps this is the way music is meant to be heard, in places where you can see people’s faces, hear their breathing, watch them fidget or smile or laugh. You can, in fact, interact with them as human beings rather than as teeny, tiny little figures up there on the stage.  As part of the bargain at The Birdhouse Concert Series, you also get to have a chip-in potluck with other folks who love and appreciate music.

As scary as the prospect of singing in front of such an intimate group of people seems to me, I have to say the performers that I’ve seen so far seem to really love it.  Maybe they’re faking, but I don’t think so.  Both Danny Flanigan and Edie Carey talked about the kindness of the audience and the intensity of their listening.  In this kind of format, there is no ambient noise from the bar, or people coming in and going out, or having conversations to distract you.  There is just the music and you.  And I suppose if making music is something you so very much love to do, then having that kind of intense attention given to it must be heaven.  Like a really good comment on your blog post (hint, hint).

At any rate, I’m sure all the hip and happening places that are not Madison have house concert series.  I’m personally quite happy and grateful we have one here in Madison, too.  You can find out more about The Birdhouse Concert Series by going to the Cultivate webpage, here and if you’re interested in attending future shows in the Birdhouse Concert Series, contact Kriss Luckett-Ziesemer, here at birdhouseconcertseries@gmail.com.

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